There once dwelt in
Nithsdale a woman who was enabled by fairy aid to see the spirits of
the dead in the Other World. This was how it came about. One day she
sat spinning wool in her house. Her baby lay in a cradle beside her,
listening to the soft humming sound of the spinning wheel and her
mother's sweet song. Suddenly a rustling, like the rustling of dead
leaves in the wind, was heard at the door. The woman looked up and
saw a beautiful lady, clad in green and carrying a baby. She
entered, and smiling sweetly, spoke and said: "Will you nurse my
bonnie baby until I return?"
The woman answered:
"Yes, I shall do that."
She took the baby in
her arms, and the lady went away, promising to return. But the day
went past and night came on, and still she did not come back for her
child. The woman wondered greatly, but she wondered even more next
morning when she awoke to find beside her bed beautiful new clothes
for her children, and some delicious cakes. Being very poor she was
glad to dress her children in the new clothes, and to find that they
fitted well. The cakes were of wheaten bread and had a honey
flavour. It was a great delight to the children to eat them.
The lady did not
return that day or the next day. Weeks went past, and the woman
nursed the strange child. Months went past, and still the lady
stayed away. On many a morning wheaten cakes with honey flavour were
found in the house, and when the children's clothes were nearly worn
out, new clothing was provided for them as mysteriously as before.
Summer came on, and
one evening the lady, clad in green, again entered the house. A
child who was playing on the floor stretched forth her hands to
grasp the shining silver spangles that adorned her gown, but, to his
surprise, his hands passed through them as if they were sunbeams.
The woman perceived this, and knew that her visitor was a fairy.
Said the fairy lady:
"You have been kind to my bonnie baby; I will now take her away."
The woman was sorry
to part with the child, and said: "You have a right to her, but I
love her dearly."
Said the fairy: "Come
with me, and I shall show you my house."
The woman went
outside with the fairy. They walked through a wood together, and
then began to climb a green hill on the sunny side. When they were
half-way to the top, the fairy said something which the woman did
not understand. No sooner had she spoken than the turf on a bank in
front of them lifted up and revealed a door. This door opened, and
the two entered through the doorway. When they did so, the turf came
down and the door was shut.
The woman found
herself in a bare chamber which was dimly lighted.
"Now you shall see my
home," said the fairy woman, who took from her waist-belt a goblet
containing a green liquid. She dropped three drops of this liquid in
the woman's left eye, and said: "Look now."
The woman looked, and
was filled with wonder. A beautiful country stretched out in front
of her. There were green hills fringed by trees, crystal streams
flashing in sunshine, and a lake that shone like burnished silver.
Between the hills there lay a field of ripe barley.
The fairy then
dropped three drops of the green liquid in the woman's right eye,
and said: "Look now."
The woman looked, and
she saw men and women she had known in times past, cutting the
barley and gathering fruit from the trees.
She cried out: "I see
many who once lived on earth and have long been dead. What are they
Said the fairy:
"These people are suffering punishment for their evil deeds."
When she had spoken
thus, the fairy woman passed her hand over the woman's eyes, and the
vision of green hills and harvest fields and reapers vanished at
once. She found herself standing once more in the bare,
dimly-lighted chamber. Then the fairy gave her gifts of cloth and
healing ointments, and, leading her to the door, bade her farewell.
The door opened, the turf was lifted up, and the woman left the
fairy's dwelling and returned to her own home.
For a time she kept
the power of seeing the fairies as they went to and fro near her
house. But one day she spoke to one of them, and the fairy asked:
"With which eye do you see me?"
Said the woman: "I
see you with both my eyes."
The fairy breathed on
her eyes, and then was lost to sight. Never again did the woman
behold the fairies, for the power that had been given her was taken
away from her eyes by this fairy to whom she had spoken.